Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Lessons from the breadline, part 1
Welcome to the first of a semi-regular series on "things I'm learning while unemployed." With today marking two weeks since I entered the job market again, I thought it was an excellent time to lead the examined work life. And if you're unemployed -- or once were unemployed -- or might possibly BE unemployed at some point in your life -- then chime in with your thoughts as well!
LESSON 1: The milk of human kindness flows like honey (and other mixed metaphors) in times of crisis.
People blow me away. I so much as send out one email or tweet, and I get a flood of helpful responses and advice back.
Allison Fine at Demos put me in touch with as many fine people in her Rolodex as she could think of. Josh Levy at Change.org told me to find the narrative that threads through my diverse resume. Jessica Clark of Build the Echo pointed me toward progressive job sites such as DemocraticGain.org. And they're just the tip of the iceberg. Wait until the next edition of this series, and I guarantee this list will go on, and on, and on ...
LESSON 2: You become your habits, whether you recognize it or not.
My work was between my church and my gym. I didn't even have to cross a street to get from one place to another. But now that a very large piece of my daily life was removed from that destination equation, the others are thrown into turmoil. How do I work out if I don't have to go downtown? How do I get to activities at church on time in the evening if I'm not already right there? Do I still get a membership discount? Should I wait to cancel? Should I pull out of volunteering?
Point is, you don't realize how many little pieces make up your day-to-day life until you're forced to change them all. And though it might sound odd, this upends my sense of order and stability more than the prospect of months without a paycheck.
LESSON 3: Really, don't sweat the small stuff. Or the big stuff. Or the medium stuff. Do it, just don't die for it.
I worked some very long hours before Thanksgiving to prepare for our website launch. I faced a lot of stress and agita right when I got back, too. But by Thursday of that week, it didn't matter anymore. Suddenly all these VERY IMPORTANT TASKS were easily shunted off to the remaining people, or deleted, or ignored, or canceled, or rendered meaningless by different decisions. So I had to ask myself, was it worth getting so upset along the way?
And that's how I learned that I must strike a better balance between passion and stress. Because the caveat is, all my work COULD have mattered even more. I could have stayed employed, in which case all those balls would still be in play. So I will absolutely always do what I need to do to fulfill my job responsibilities and continue growing. I just won't sacrifice my sanity or health to it.
Ok, your turn. What wisdom have you gleaned from the breadline?
Photo by Nemo's great uncle